Birthdate: November 30th, 1914
Location: Hounslow, UK
Died: October 27th, 1988
Location: Deal, UK
Cause of death: Heart disease
Best known for: One of the regular ensemble cast that made up the Carry On team in the UK in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, although Charles had been a star in his own right since the 1930s, starting as a child performer. Charles was known for his horn-rimmed spectacles and his catchphrase "Oh hello", as well as his effeminate manner.
Charles's career as a Carry On regular was long and memorable. His first appearance was as Peter Golightly in the very first film, Carry On Sergeant, in 1958, and he subsequently made appearances in a further 22 movies, as well as the 1969 and 1970 Christmas TV specials. However, his unrepentant alcoholism was what called time on his Carry On career in the end, and what ultimately sounded the death knell for his performing career overall.
|Charles, 58, in his final film role, as|
Eustace Tuttle in Carry On Abroad
Charles's latter career outside the world of the Carry Ons is a sorry affair, but all the more fascinating for it. In 1971, when he was 57, he appeared in the children's adventure series Grasshopper Island, filmed in such far-flung locations as Corsica and Wales, playing Elderly Boy, but footage from this series is rare to find (clips exist on YouTube and Daily Motion, but not with Charles in), despite it being issued on DVD.
|Charles, 65, in 1979's The |
Plank, with Joanna Lumley
Charles's penultimate screen acting role was in Eric Sykes's celebrated silent comedy short The Plank, released in December 1979, when Charles was 65. This was actually a televised remake of the 1967 original, which Charles did not appear in. His co-stars here included Arthur Lowe, Bernard Cribbins, Charlie Drake, Frankie Howerd and Jimmy Edwards. Sadly, Charles's participation in this film was minimal and somewhat wasted, as he plays one of two lorry drivers (the other being Harry H Corbett) who are travelling with Joanna Lumley, who gets knocked unconscious by a blow to the back of her head from a plank of wood. Lumley collapses, dazed, into the arms of a clearly overjoyed Corbett, and Charles is reduced to giving a pursed look of resignation.
|Charles as the Duke of Claridge|
in Super Gran, aged 72
In the 1980s, Charles's shambolic appearance could not harm his radio work, and he regularly appeared as Fingers in a trilogy of radio plays by Wally K Daly about a criminal gang, entitled Burglar's Bargains (1979), A Right Royal Rip-Off (1982) and The Bigger They Are (1985), co-starring Carry On contemporary Bernard Bresslaw as well as Peter Jones and Lockwood West.
However, Charles did have a number of non-acting appearances in his later years, including being guest on three editions of the celebrity biographical series This Is Your Life - for Hylda Baker in 1972, Dinah Sheridan in 1979 and Bill Owen in 1981.
|From left, Charles on Bill Owen's This is Your Life (aged 66),|
as Dracula on Runaround (aged 62), and on the infamous Movie
Memories (aged 66)
|117 Middle Street in Deal.|
You can see the blue plaque on
the wall, erected in 1998 in
Most revealingly, however, is Williams's diary entry for May 10th, 1970, when he paid Charles a visit at his home in Deal: "Charles came to the door in his undervest, unshaven. On entering, we saw his lunch steaming on the table, so we went off for more drinks till he was ready. He was still unshaven but showed us all over the house, which is rambling and incredibly tat - like a lodging house which all the boarders have suddenly deserted, and that revolting smell of rising damp and cat's fish everywhere. She [sic] produced male physique magazines with a great flourish and meaningful remarks, but they were all quite innocuous. I was horrified to learn then that Charles was travelling back [to London] with us! A nightmare journey of three hours and she had to lose her cigarette holder and search the car at Victoria (where we dumped her) to find the wretched thing. She pressed us all to come again and 'please regard it as your second home'. Before I do that, I'll need the rest home."
|Charles being rescued from|
a house fire in August 1984,
when he was aged 69
"By the end he was a bitter drunk who had exhausted his friends with his shenanigans and become reclusive and tormented. It's a tragic story."
Charles hit the headlines on Sunday, August 5th, 1984, when a fire broke out at the 69-year-old's Deal home. Reportedly, Charles had gone to bed with a young rent boy and left a cigarette burning on his sofa, although some reports claim the male prostitute deliberately set fire to the house when Charles refused to pay him. Photos from the time show a fireman leading an emotionally distressed, partially-clothed and wig-less Charles away from his house. Apparently, he'd insisted on being rescued by the biggest firefighter!
|Charles being escorted out|
of 117 Middle Street at Deal
following the fire
Charles died three days later, aged 73, in a nursing home in Walmer, near Deal. There is a story that a nurse asked him for his autograph while he was on his deathbed, and he threw a vase at her! Charles was cremated and his ashes scattered at Mortlake Crematorium, near Chiswick in London. There were just nine mourners at his funeral, none of them friends or family.
A bit of fun: Clips of Charles's last screen appearances are few and far between (Movie Memories and Super Gran footage has been removed from YouTube), but we do have his appearance on 1976's Runaround to marvel at...